Posted by Nicole on February 18, 2014

“Beauty rest” may not be a cute way of describing a restful night of sleep. When we get the right amount of sleep at night, it helps us to be more alert, but it also helps our mood and even our physical health. If you've ever missed a few hours, or even a day of sleep, then you already know what it can do to the way that you feel, the way that you look, and the way that you interact with others. 

Unfortunately, in a day and age when people are expected to work 10 to 12 hour shifts and balance a family life, it's often your sleep that ends up getting shortchanged. Most people don't imagine that they need more than four to five hours, but in reality you may need as many as nine hours of sleep depending on your age, your physical level activity, your diet, and other indicators. The trick is to find your sweet spot, and then to put that as your highest priority. Here's why.

Sweet Dreams

When we sleep, we improve our memory, our ability to focus, and our ability to learn new information. When we miss out on sleep, on the other hand, we're more likely to eat poorly, become easily confused or angry, or even become depressed at otherwise trivial events. Missing too much sleep too often puts you at risk of depression, as mentioned. It's no coincidence that people who are chronically sleepless are also depressed as well; whether one becomes before the other is largely irrelevant.

Having an impaired sense of awareness, a poor memory, and a lower ability to understand and process information can have a drastic impact on the relationships and interactions that you have with other people. Over time, this can lead to an inability to clearly communicate ideas or process ideas that other people attempt to communicate with you. On a basic, mechanical level, it turns your brain into something of a hermit that can't understand the world outside of its cave, and that's only the logistical impact that sleeplessness has on the brain.

A Chemical Candidate

On the chemical side of the equation, sleeplessness can lead to lowered levels of both serotonin and melatonin, both of which are important for the regulation of mood and sleep cycles. Lowered levels of serotonin actually predict lower levels of both melatonin and lack of quality sleep. As we get older, we also experience lowered production of melatonin.

To boost serotonin levels, foods that are rich in vitamin B6 and magnesium can be powerful aids. Another all natural supplement that's completely free? Sunlight, which helps us to produce vitamin D. These are all coenzymes which help to convert tryptophan, a molecule found in food, into serotonin. More serotonin, and exposure to sunlight, means more melatonin, which means more sleep. Although this isn't a silver bullet for every sleep issue, it may help to give you a better night's rest and an improved mood the next day.